Spanish is the second most spoken language in the world by number of native speakers. In fact, 22 countries have Spanish as their official language. With many countries speaking the same language, accents diversify and words start carrying different meanings. This can get confusing sometimes, so that's why I've decided to create this list of the top 10 Spanish words with different meanings across the Spanish-speaking world.
In most Spanish speaking countries, guagua is a slang term for baby (bebé in standard Spanish). However, in Cuba, The Canary Islands and Spain, guagua is the word for bus.
If you use the word banqueta in Spain, people will understand that you're talking about a bench. However, in Mexico and Guatemala, banqueta is the word for sidewalk. In Colombia, we rather use andén for sidewalk and banco or banca for bench.
In Colombia, chucha is used to describe bad armpit odor, but it is also the common name for the black-eared opossum marsupial. In Argentina, it describes the female reproductive organ. In Chile, the phrase 'está a la chucha' is used to describe something that is far away. Chucha is also used as an insult in several Latin American countries.
In most of the Spanish-speaking world, people will recognize that fresa means strawberry. However, in Argentina, frutilla is the preferred word for strawberry. In Mexico, the word fresa is used to describe a superficial, conceited and egocentric person.
In Colombia or Spain, if you order a torta at a restaurant you'll get a cake. In Mexico, however, you'd be served a sandwich garnished with vegetables, ham, eggs and avocado. In The Philippines, you'd get an omelette with eggplant and ground meat.
In most Spanish speaking countries, concha is the word for shell. However, in Argentina it is used to describe the female reproductive organ. In Mexico, it is the name of a cookie and it is also a proper name for women in both Mexico and Spain.
In Spain, coche is the word for car. However, in Guatemala it is a slang term for the word pig and in Chile it is used to describe a stroller. By the way, there are several ways to call cars accross the Spanish speaking countries. In Mexico, people say coche or carro. In Colombia and Venezuela, carro is the preferred term, whereas in Argentina, Chile, Uruguay and Peru, people prefer to say auto.
In standard Spanish, mona is the word for a female monkey. However, this word has got additional menaings. For instance, in Spain, mona describes a cute girl. In Colombia it is used to describe a blond woman (mono being the masculine equivalent). In Venezuela, mona is used to describe conceited and egocentric girls.
In most of the Spanish-speaking world, chivo means goat. However, in both Uruguay and Argentina, chivo is used to describe bad armpit smell.
In El Salvador and Guatemala, the word chucho is used to describe a small dog. In Honduras, it means stingy and can be used to describe an unreliable person. Chucho also means cold in Argentina, jail in Chile and it characterizes a skillful person in Mexico. Last but not least, Chucho is also the nickname given to people named Jesús.
Colombia has slowly started emerging as a major tourist destination in the world. Many people are choosing to visit the country because there's a wide variety of interesting things to do and beautiful things to see. If you're wondering what Colombia is famous for, keep on reading!
Colombia holds the status of megadiverse country - a status held only by 17 countries. In fact, this country is the second most biodiverse in the world after Brazil - a country seven times its size.
Colombia ranks first in bird diversity and second in plants, amphibians, butterflies and fresh water fish diversity in the world. It accounts for 10% of the world's flora and fauna.
Colombia is currently number three top exporter of coffee in the world, right after Brazil and Vietnam. In order to get the amazing flavor Colombian coffee is known for out of each coffee bean, they must be harvested at the right time and at the right color. This is why Colombian coffee beans are all handpicked.
Colombia is the country that mines and produces the most emeralds for the global market. In fact, it accounts for 70 - 90% of the world's emerald market.
Colombian Emeralds are the only ones in the world found on sedimentary rocks, as compared to other found on igneous rocks, which is what makes Colombian Emeralds the purest in the world.
Colombia is the only country in South America that has coastlines with both the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean. This makes of Colombia a naturally gifted country with an innumerable number of islands and stunning beaches being enjoyed by locals and tourists alike.
Colombia is home to a place in which the desert meets the sea. This place is called La Guajira, a department in northern Colombia and the northernmost point of South America. The region's unique combination of sand dunes, Caribbean Sea and coastal scrub forest make of this place a wild beauty unmatched by any other region in the country.
The abundant biodiversity in Colombia makes it possible for this country to have numerous national parks. Colombia's national protected areas and national parks cover 14% of the country's territory. This area includes turquoise Caribbean waters, coral reefs, deserts, ancient ruins, mountain ranges, tropical grasslands and an extensive Amazon jungle.
One of the most famouos national parks in Colombia is the Tayrona National Park. This place is known for its stunning and off-the-beaten-track beaches, natural rainforest and wildlife.
Music and Dance
Colombians love to party and dance. Music and dance run in their blood and it is one of the ways Colombians truly express themselves.
Colombia's musical and dance culture is as diverse as its people. It is the result of the rich ethnic diversity found in the country: indigenous people, Spanish colonists, African slaves and the immigrants from the Middle East and Europe.
Salsa music, Cumbia, Joropo and contemporary Latin Pop are some of the top genres in the country and Colombians can't seem to stop moving to the rhythm of these contagious beats.
Colombia's geographical variety, tropical climate and the influence of many immigrant populations, make Colombian cuisine extremely rich, diverse and unique.
Colombian dishes and ingredients vary widely by region. Some of the most common dishes everyone should try are Bandeja Paisa, Empanadas, Sancocho, Ajiaco and Arepas.
Colombia's weather and geography makes the country a fruit lover's paradise. The country produces a large variety of fruits, hence natural juices, desserts and snacks made of fruits are common all over the country.
As the most popular sport in Colombia, soccer is the beating heart of many Colombians.
Colombia had it strongest period during the 1990s. During this time, Colombia qualified for the 1990, 1994 and 1998 editions of the World Cup. The team came back after a 16-year absence to the 2014 World Cup edition and it also qualified for the 2018 tournament.
Some of the major Colombian soccer stars are René Higuita, James Rodríguez, Radamel Falcao, Carlos Valderrama and Iván Córdoba.
How did it all begin?
In 1810, what we know today as Colombia, was called New Granada. During that year, on July 20th to be specific, Colombian patriots were very unhappy with Spanish rule as there were restrictions and limitations in trade and to governmental positions they could hold. Therefore, they started numerous protests in the streets of Bogotá to express disapproval of Spanish arrogance. The move for independence was also motivated by the fact that neighbored cities, Caracas and Cartagena, had already declared their independence from Spain. All this combined with the fact that two years before (1808), Napoleon Bonaparte and his army had invaded Spain, captured their king - King Fernandi VII - and imprisoned him, created and opportune moment for Colombian patriots to take their first step towards independence.
How did it happen?
Colombian patriots made their way to the main square of the city, where they publicly and loudly demanded an open meeting to discuss the future of both the city and the country of New Granada (now Colombia).
José Acevedo y Gómez, leader of the riot, tried to get Viceroy Antonio José Amar y Borbón to agree to hold the town meeting, but as he hesitated, José Acevedo y Gómez made a speech that got the crowd angry, directing it to the Viceroy's doorstep. With an angry mob at his doorstep, he had no choice but to sign the act permitting a local ruling council and eventually independence.
This event would mark the first step on Colombia's path to freedom, which would culminate in 1819 with 'The Battle of Boyacá' and Simón Bolívar's entry into Bogotá.
How is Independence Day celebrated today?
Today, July 20 is celebrated in Colombia as Independence Day. Colorful parades, marches, traditional folk music spectacles and fireworks are popular activities on this day throughout the country.
Today, as a liberated country, Colombians are happy to say...
When and where did it happen?
On August 7th, 1819, Colombian patriot troops, led by Simón Bolívar, confronted the Spanish army, led by Colonel José María Barreiro, on a battle known to be the beginning of the definitive independence of the North of South America, The Battle of Boyacá.
The Battle of Boyacá took place in the Andes Mountains, 110 km from Bogotá, in a place known as the Bridge of Boyacá. This battle solidified the Independence path the country had started on July 20th, 1810.
How did it all begin?
It all began with a series of battles known as the period of the Spanish Reconquest. This period in history started recently after King Fernandi VII restored the throne in Spain and decided to send military troops to retake the northern South American colonies. At the same time, Simón Bolívar started the Independence Campaign, whose main objective was to resist and fight the Spanish troops.
The Indepedence Campaign
The Independence Campaign was a series of battles. The first encounter was a battle in Gámeza on July 11th, followed by the battle at Pantano de Vargas (Vargas Swamp) on July 25th, and finally the battle in Tunja on August 5th. Simón Bolívar and his troops were victorious on all of the three battles.
The Final Battle
The final encounter of Bolívar's Independence Campaign was on August 7th, 1819 in Boyacá. His strategy was clear: surprise the Spanish army, who was marching towards the capital (Bogotá), at the Boyacá Bridge over the Teatrinos River. The battle was led by Simón Bolívar, Francisco de Paula Santander and José Antonio Anzóategui. After a six-hour combat, the Independence troops won and the Spanish forces surrendered to Bolívar.
The Collapse of The Spanish Army
With the collapse of the Spanish army, the path to Bogotá was now open, and three days after the Battle of Boyacá, on August 10th, 1819, Simón Bolívar and his forces entered Bogotá. He was declared liberator of New Granada (now Colombia) and became the first president of the Republic of Colombia (formally established on December 17th, 1819).
Today, the Boyacá Bridge is one of the most emblematic sites in Colombian history and it is surrounded by monuments commemorating independence feats, like the Simón Bolívar and the Francisco de Paula Santander statues.
Ready for an insight into Colombian culture and history? Then, let’s get started!
Colombian history is divided into three periods: The Indigenous period, the Hispanic period and last but not least, the Republican period.
The Indigenous Period
Approximately 20,000 years ago, when you were not yet born, the first settlers arrived in Colombia. And no, they were not aliens!
The first inhabitants of today’s Colombian territory penetrated the Caribbean coast through the east. Numerous groups slowly started penetrating deep into the interior occupying the Andes Mountains. Some people decided to continue their lives as nomads, while others opted to leave behind their nomad days to adopt a sedentary lifestyle.
The Hispanic Period
This phase in history began with the arrival of Cristóbal Colón. At the moment, many pre-Colombian civilizations populated the Colombian territory. The pre-Colombian period,*1 which lasted for over three centuries, is divided into three sub-phases:
- The discovery: It started with the arrival of Cristóbal Colón and the first encounter between Spaniards and Indigenous people. In this phase, Spaniards explored the ‘New World’, finding indigenous populations and both mineral and forest resources.
- The conquest: During this phase, Spaniards deprived Indigenous people of their goods and land, subduing them into slavery in order to establish complete colonial rule and to exploit the natural resources.
- The colony: Throughout this phase, Spaniards consolidated their power and completed colonial rule in the ‘New World’. Due to the decline of indigenous people, black people from the African continent were brought to work as slaves. This slave trade gave rise to a huge miscegenation between whites and blacks (the reason why nowadays Colombians have an eclectic and mixed cultural tradition). In the course of this phase, the economy was based, on the one hand, on the extraction of both gold and silver, and on the other hand, on the cultivation of tobacco and indigo.
Now, let’s take a look into ‘more recent’ stuff. Let’s discuss about the third period in Colombian history, the Republican period.
The Republican Period
This period (XIX century) was an era of major confrontations and changes in my country. It started with the Cry of Independence in 1810 and ended successfully with the battle of Boyacá in 1819. This battle ensured the success of Bolívar’s campaign to liberate 'La Gran Colombia' or The Great Colombia in English (nowadays Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador and Panama). In 1831, the dissolution of The Great Colombia took place, creating three independent states: The Republic of Venezuela, The Republic of Ecuador and The New Granada.
Throughout this period, the Freedom of Wombs Law was adopted. This law ensured that all children that were born and raised from enslaved women were not enslaved at birth. Instead, babies became the property of the slave woman’s owner. The adoption of this law helped the gradual abolition of slavery.
In 1830, the liberator Simón Bolívar passed away and in 1903 Panama separated from the territory we know today as Colombia. In the following years, Colombia showed a healthier economy than that of its neighbor countries and achieved to be an integrated and diversified country, where people feel proud of being Colombians and don’t mind screaming out loud …
*1:The pre-Colombian notion refers to the era before the arrival of Cristóbal Colón in America in 1492. It englobes the period since the first arrival of settlers until the establishment of the political and cultural control exert by Europeans over the indigenous people.
Colombia likes bringing its people together and the way the country does it, is by celebrating its history, culture and traditions during animated festivals and carnivals held throughout the country. The following is a list of my personal favorite four festivals in Colombia.
Carnival of Barranquilla
Beautiful women, colorful costumes, spectacular parades and lots of dancing to the rhythm of orchestras in one single place. This place is the city of Barranquilla, in the northern Caribbean Coast of Colombia.
Barranquilla's carnival is held every year somewhere between the last week of February and the first week of March. This carnival is the second largest carnival in the world, after Rio de Janeiro. It was declared a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO.
During the four days of carnival, the city of Barranquilla paralyzes activities as both locals and foreigners fill the streets with dance, music and masquerade parades. This carnival is one of Colombia's most important folkloric events during which the Colombian ethnic diversity is celebrated through traditional dances and music, such as the 'Cumbia'.
Blacks' and Whites' Carnival
There's a place in the world in which people come together every year to celebrate ethnic and cultural differences. This place is called San Juan de Pasto, in south western Colombia.
The Blacks' and Whites' Carnival is celebrated every year from the 28th of December until the 7th of January. This cheerful carnival is since 2009 on the UNESCO list of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
What makes this carnival unique is its remarkable 2-day-event dedicated to both the black and white people. During the first of these 2 days, people celebrate the black ethnicity by painting their faces (and sometimes their whole bodies and clothes) with black paint and cosmetics, and going on the streets to dance to the rhythm of the carnival. On the next and last day of the carnival, people cover themselves using talcum powder, foam or even flour. Needless to say, the streets are a battlefield, so just be ready to be covered in lots and lots of flour and paint!
Petronio Álvarez Music Festival
Colombian culture, heritage and tradition is express through music and dance, and this music festival is no exception! It's a huge celebration of the country's African heritage.
The Petronio Álvarez Music Festival is held every year in the city of Cali in August. The festival was named after an important musician born in 1914 on the island of Cascajal, near Buenaventura.
Throughout the four days of cheerful celebration, more than 60 bands from across the country compete for awards. And the best part is that you get to be part of the contagiously animated atmosphere!
Be part of the world's largest Afro-Latino festival and be ready to dance to the rhythm of Colombian people while delighting yourself with some of the best traditional dishes from the Pacific region of Colombia.
The Flower Festival
The Flower Festival is held in the 'City of Eternal Spring', Medellín. This beautiful city is surrounded by natural beauty all year round, but in early August of each year, the city dresses up in colors for the Flower Festival.
This celebration has taken place every year since 1957 and holds events such as concerts; caravan of chivas - rustic bus adapted to be used in rural Colombia-; cabalgata - horse ride through town -; orchestras; fireworks; and the world-famous parade of Silleteros – the saddler's parade. This is the event that makes this festival really unique. For the parade of Silleteros, flower farmers prepare beautiful arrangements, which are then carried on their backs. Each saddle can weight up to 70 kg, measure 5 meters in diameter and is made of up to 25 different varieties of flowers!
By now, you've probably already heard about the remarkable flavor and aroma of Colombian coffee. But, you're probably wondering how this South American country manages to produce some of the world's best coffee beans. Well, what if I tell you there's a place you can visit where you can learn everything about the coffee production process, from the moment the seed is planted until it reaches your morning cup? The place I'm talking about is called 'La Recuca', which stands for 'Recorrido de la Cultura Cafetera' or 'Coffee Culture Tour' in English.
La Recuca is a coffee farm located in the Quindío department. The first thing you'll notice when arriving at this coffee farm is the beautiful coffee landscape and green scenery surrounding you.
After having bought your tickets, the staff will receive you with a delicious and freshly prepared cup of coffee that will boost your energy to start the tour.
During your visit you'll be guided by one of the staff members who'll be in charge of explaining the different steps that coffee undergoes from seed to cup. The guided tours are available both in Spanish and English.
On the first part of the tour, you'll learn how coffee seeds are planted; how the cherries are harvested; how the beans are sun-dried by spreading them on drying tables and at last, how the beans are milled in order to remove their dried husks. During this part of the tour, you'll have the opportunity to participate in the harvesting of the cherries. As I mentioned in the 'Ten Things You Didn't Know About Colombian Coffee' article, coffee beans in Colombia are all hand-picked in order to only select the mature red coffee beans. This means you'll need both your hands free to hand-pick all the red cherries on each branch, so after having a basket attached to your waist, you'll be all set to go. Walk through the coffee plantations and get all those red cherries!
After having picked the red cherries, you'll participate in an activity involving costumes and dancing. Men are dressed as 'Arrieros' or 'Muleteers' in English (men in charge of transporting coffee bags using mules) and women as 'Chapoleras' (women in charge of collecting coffee beans).
After having laughed with the dance and costumes, you'll probably be wanting another cup of the delicious Colombian coffee. Good news is you'll be participating in the coffee tasting ritual. It involves sniffing different coffee varieties to find specific aromas; sipping; swirling in the mouth and finally spitting (or not) the sample into a waste cup.
By the end of the tour, you'll receive a small coffee bag as a souvenir, but if you loved the coffee, I'd totally recommend to head to their souvenir shop and buy some more to take back home with you!